Slain man’s family adamant he was not ‘mentally challenged’

Slain man’s family adamant he was not ‘mentally challenged’
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Syed Habibullah, father of six, was shot dead at midnight at Air Force station

SOIBUG-BUDGAM: Huddled into a small, decrepit structure of broken tin sheets, family members of Syed Habibullah, a poor old man shot dead by troops at the Indian Air Force station in Budgam, demand a “fair investigation”.
As per the police statement, Habibullah was shot dead after he “crossed the security fence and came close to the station perimeter wall”.
At their home located in Astan-Mohalla area of Soibug, in Budgam district, bricks lie littered all around the make-shift tin shed.
“We had a two-room house, but in 2014 floods it was totally ruined. Only remnants of the house survive,” Abu Bakar, Habibullah’s son, said.
He thanked his neighbours for bringing wooden logs and tin sheets to help the family have a roof on their head.
“We have no land and no hope left now except faith in Allah. By murdering our father, we have been left in the lurch. Our dreams have come to an end,” Abu Bakar said.
He said he was continuously being visited by common people, relatives and believers. They come from far-off places to condole the bereaved family, even after many days have passed.
Abu Bakar said he was unable to understand the reason for his father being killed.
“If police were so confident about his “mental-illness” (police statement described the killed man as “mentally challenged”), then why did they not come to record the statements of his family members?” he questioned.
Syed Shabnum, daughter of the slain man, said, “It (the police statement) is plainly to legalise the murder of our innocent father of six.”
“How can the police say he was mentally challenged when they have not even spoken to us? My father was 100 percent fit and was offering namaz five times a day,” she added. “Yes, he had general weakness due to old-age health issues, and that too only since last year, which cannot by any means be interpreted as mental instability.”
As per the police statement released soon after the incident, “as per the revelation of spot examination the individual of about 50-55 years of age who appears to be mentally challenged has died in the incident”. It pointed out that the person was not wearing foot wear, was without proper winter clothing, and carrying no identity card.
“He left home that day at 6pm, the usual time he left for the nearby Jamia Masjid. He was carrying a fire-pot, wearing proper winter clothes, shoes, and a woollen cloak, which they haven’t given us back. Only the dead body was handed over to the family the next day,” Abu Bakar said.
“My father was a well-known faith healer and everyone knew him in this area as well as in other places. He would sometimes stay for several days at the homes of his devotees,” said Abu Bakar.
“I am sure that he must have visited some home in the airport area that evening,” he added.
Showing some of his hand-written Arabic texts, which he would give out to people as amulets, Abu Bakar asked if his father had been a mentally-challenged person, why would have people come to visit him?
The family members alleged that the troops guarding the Air Force station never fired any warning shots at him.
“If they would have fired warning shots, he would have survived. But they directly shot him in the chest,” they said.
Senior Superintendent of Police Budgam, Tejinder Singh, said the allegations made by the family need to be corroborated. “Let them bring someone who was with him, who knows that warning shots were not fired at him. We will record his statement in the FIR.”
The SSP said, “It was midnight. It was not possible from 100-150 meters’ distance for troops to shoot on target.”
He also refuted the family claims that Habibubullah was a mentally stable person.
“Had he been mentally fit, he would not have been roaming at midnight, that too bare-footed, without proper clothes, with bread and vegetables in his pocket.”
“If it doesn’t indicate mental illness, then what does it indicate?” Singh questioned.
“We will call the family and their statements will be recorded. For now, no communication has yet been made with them,” the SSP said.